Two teams have their sights set on San Antonio for Final Four action. No. 3 Michigan and No. 11 Chicago of Loyola will celebrate winning their regionals before focusing on each other in a competition for a spot in the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship.
On the other side of the bracket, No. 1 Villanova is looking to knock off No. 3 Texas Tech to reach its second Final Four in three years. After falling short in the Elite Eight in the past two tournaments, No. 1 Kansas will have a third consecutive shot at reaching the national semifinal.
With six programs remaining in the Big Dance, we will narrow the field down to the two programs that have the best chance at playing for a title. Between the Ramblers and the Wolverines, whose 13-game win streak comes to an end? Will a top seed emerge from the other side of the bracket?
No. 3 Michigan
Sorry, Sister Jean. Chicago-Loyola put together a terrific tournament run, one all underdogs can admire, but the Missouri Valley Conference champions will face their toughest challenge to date in the Final Four.
The Ramblers have earned nationwide respect for late-game heroics, but their defense deserves a little more recognition. Chicago-Loyola hasn't allowed 70 points in a contest en route to its second Final Four appearance in program history. Head coach Porter Moser's group locked down No. 9 Kansas State in the previous outing on the way to a 78-62 victory.
The Wolverines can play that game too.
Michigan's shots didn't fall against No. 9 Florida State like they did in the Sweet 16 Round versus Texas A&M. As a team, the Wolverines shot 39 percent from the field and a miserable 18 percent from three-point land. Still, they managed to scrape together a 58-54 win after a sloppy start and cold stretches throughout the contest.
The Wolverines know how to clamp down on the opposition when struggling to knock down shots. We have yet to see how the Ramblers respond when converting on less than 47 percent of their field-goal attempts.
Chicago-Loyola isn't a stranger to gritty play on the court, but Michigan has more reliable scorers to win a contest in which two teams trade big shots down the stretch.
No. 1 Villanova
Villanova should have success attacking Texas Tech's defense with multiple perimeter scorers, coupled with freshman forward Omari Spellman's ability to make plays inside and outside the paint. No disrespect to the Red Raiders' Sweet 16 victory against Purdue, but the Wildcats will have a healthy team ready to pounce from the opening whistle.
Kansas and Duke would pose unique threats to Villanova in the Final Four.
The Jayhawks match up in the scoring department with elite guard play and an inside presence through center Udoka Azubuike.
The Blue Devils would likely take a physical approach in an attempt to wear down the Wildcats with Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter Jr. and an increased workload for Marques Bolden off the bench.
Either way, it's a must-see matchup. Villanova's deep rotation should outlast the opposition in the Final Four.
As expected, the Big East champions have put their scoring prowess on display throughout the Big Dance, averaging 86 points per contest. In two of their wins, the Wildcats shot 50 percent or better from the field.
At times, Duke lags in scoring consistency. Kansas' shooting efficiency has kept its games closer than anticipated. Those shortcomings will open Villanova's pathway to the title game.
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